By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor
Take the largest, most aggressive predators from three different continents and throw them together in a cramped Atlanta apartment and what do you get? Mayhem? Well, not exactly. What you get exactly is a love story and a lesson in tolerance, perseverance and making life work. Thirteen years ago, Atlanta police burst into a drug dealer’s apartment and found, Baloo, a North American brown bear, Leo, an African lion, and Shere Khan, an Asian tiger. A status symbol in the drug culture, the then-cubs were sharing a miserable life of neglect and starvation. Freed from their captor, the trio were dispatched by authorities to the Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in Locust Grove, Georgia for R & R. But then something wonderful and telling happened. The group, who had struggled together, began to thrive together.
“They actually seek out each others affections,” animal husbandry manager Allison Hedgecoth said. “They nuzzle each other. They play together.” A bond formed by duress and cooperation to survive was stronger than any sense of species identity. While the animals interact with the other residents of the preserve, their genuine affection for each other is out for all to see. It’s a brotherhood as real as any human institution.
The law continues to regard these creatures as mere property. Ignoring their very human-like sentiments and value to us, courts tell us that animals have only the value of a beast of burden or sideshow attraction. Stories like this make me wonder if they have value as teachers of humanity as well. Can mutual interest really suppress inborn aggression? Are ways available for creatures of different colors and attitudes to work and live together not just in tolerance but in genuine harmony? Will humans ever reach the utopia found by this unlikely “family”? Are Homo sapiens really the dominant species in a moral sense?
Noah’s Ark founder, Jama Hedgecoth seems to have discovered the secret that eludes many, “I think people, they really want to be like that. They teach you how to get along. They’re definitely not the same color. They’re not the same species. They’re not even from the same country, and they love each other. They’re brothers, and they teach you how to love.”
According to their website, Noah’s Ark is “a non-profit Animal Sanctuary dedicated to bringing children and animals together with the purpose of providing unconditional love, unconditional service and a future full of hope.” You can read about their good work here.
Future full of hope? Mission accomplished.
~Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor